Sunday, 23 June 2013

(Alexander) Wilson's Phalarope


One of the very few left on my list to see and sod the cost (well almost), a summer plumaged female Wilson's Phalarope had taken a liking to a small pond behind the quaint town of Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight and had lingered for the weekend.  I'll have some of that.

Now I've done a bit of research on the man whose name graces this rather smart bird, and I wish to share it with you.  When I say "research", I googled his name and stole this whole piece from Wikepdia. That said I've always been a bit interested in birds that carry a persons name, Stella for example, not only the author of the wife beater lager so favoured by me in my youth but also in his more lucid moments the describer of an eagle and an eider to name but two.

So Alexander Wilson, seen his snipe: smart bird, but his plover and warbler remain a mystery to me.  His Phalarope though is phwoar.

"Alexander Wilson (July 6, 1766 – August 23, 1813) was a Scottish-American poet, ornithologist, naturalist, and illustrator. Identified by George Ord as the "Father of American Ornithology," Wilson is now regarded as the greatest American ornithologist before Audubon

Wilson was born in Paisley, Scotland. In 1779 he was apprenticed as a weaver. Inspired by the dialect verse of Robert Burns, who was only seven years older, Wilson soon became seriously interested in poetry, writing ballads, pastoral pieces, and satirical commentary on the conditions of weavers in the mills. One such poem, and Wilson's clumsy attempt at extortion of a mill owner, resulted in his arrest and, eventually, emigration to America.

Wilson turned to teaching in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, eventually settling into a position at Gray's Ferry, Pennsylvania and taking up residence in nearby Kingsessing. Here Wilson met the famous naturalist William Bartram, who encouraged Wilson's interest in ornithology and painting. Resolving to publish a collection of illustrations of all the birds of North America, Wilson travelled widely, collecting, painting, and securing subscriptions for his work, the nine-volume American Ornithology (1808–1814). Of the 268 species of birds illustrated there, 26 had not previously been described. Wilson died during the preparation of the ninth volume, which was completed and published by George Ord." Source Wikepedia

A Scot, but aren't the best people? I like the fact he "clumsily" tried a bit of extortion, makes him a bit of chump and OK the birds were named in honour of him rather than based on his descriptions, but I may even want to find out more about the man.

A sluggish ferry across a windy Solent and within 10 minutes I am looking at beauty, happily feeding away with, not the largest twitch I've ever been on, four others; two from London Jay Ward and Paul Hackett (who a few years back tried to teach me how to digiscope while watching my Wryneck on the flats).  Later Mr Bagnell turned up with a small entourage, but mainly it was just the three of us enjoying Wilson's wonder.

Having filled my boots I bid adieu and walked back to the ferry catching this smart creature crossing my path.

Another windy crossing trying to snap the Common Tern following the boat and on the look out for some Poms that had been seen just west of us a few hours earlier.  Just a couple of Gannet, though I did pick up what was probably a Nightjar flying along the tree line!

I had planned for a quick look round Pennington before ambling off to Cambridge for some family fun, but was too knackered, and that's why I probably left my tripod on the train. Arse!

Trains, fuck em.  Sunday and all the trains to Liverpool Street have been cancelled so I have to walk to Cambridge to get one to Kings Cross. Not such a bad thing as it turns out.  Just south of the City a new country park is in the process of being made.  A few lagoons, a large lake and meadows.  Where once I used to see Yellow Wagtails breeding it's now Skylark central.  The main lake had a Little Ringed Plover and a couple of Common Terns who followed me down the path screaming their disapproval, and I can see potential here, when it all settles down a bit come the autumn... 

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